VB.NET Sort Examples: Arrays and Lists

See examples for sorting. Use the Array.Sort and List.Sort Functions to sort arrays and Lists.

Sort. Elements, one after another, proceed in order. But often collections are not in an order we want. With the Sort subroutine (on arrays and lists) we order elements by their values.

Sorting details. We sort collections in-place. Sorting is by default in ascending order: elements go from lowest to highest. We can implement a descending order.

Array. We use System.Array.Sort on array instances. Here the array is of type String() and it contains 4 strings (vegatables). Array.Sort is called.Array

And: The array is sorted in-place. Then we loop through the array with a For-Each loop. We print results.

For Each, ForConsole
VB.NET program that uses Array.Sort on strings Module Module1 Sub Main() ' Create an array of String() with 4 elements. Dim vegatables As String() = New String() {"carrot", "turnip", "onion", "corn"} ' Use the System.Array.Sort shared method. System.Array.Sort(vegatables) ' Loop through the results and print them with Console.WriteLine. Dim value As String For Each value In vegatables Console.WriteLine(value) Next End Sub End Module Output carrot corn onion turnip

Sort, Reverse. Another way to reorder an array combines the Sort and Reverse methods. Effectively, this will give you a reverse alphabetical sort on strings.

Tip: It is important to use Reverse after Sort, because Sort will always produce an alphabetical array in this context.

VB.NET program that uses Sort and Reverse methods Module Module1 Sub Main() ' Create a String array with 5 elements. Dim array As String() = New String() {"X", _ "B", _ "A", _ "Z", _ "C"} ' Use the System.Array.Sort shared method. System.Array.Sort(Of String)(array) ' Invoke the Reverse method after sorting. System.Array.Reverse(array) ' Loop through the results. Dim value As String For Each value In array Console.WriteLine(value) Next End Sub End Module Output Z X C B A

Sort, descending. Here is a better way to sort descending (from last to first) in VB.NET. No separate reverse call is needed. Instead, we use a special Comparison Function.

Info: In DescendingComparison, we create a descending sort by changing the order of the variables in the CompareTo call.

Tip: We use AddressOf to reference our special Comparison Function. Then we use For-Each to display the result.

VB.NET program that uses descending sort Module Module1 Function DescendingComparison(ByVal valueA As String, ByVal valueB As String) As Integer ' Invert the order of the comparison to sort in descending order. Return valueB.CompareTo(valueA) End Function Sub Main() Dim letters As String() = {"X", "B", "A", "Z", "C"} ' Use custom DescendingComparison to sort in reverse. Array.Sort(Of String)(letters, New Comparison(Of String)(AddressOf DescendingComparison)) ' Display results. For Each value As String In letters Console.WriteLine("DESCENDING: {0}", value) Next End Sub End Module Output DESCENDING: Z DESCENDING: X DESCENDING: C DESCENDING: B DESCENDING: A

List. Sorting a List is also easy. No custom algorithms need to be implemented. Instead, you can invoke the instance Sort method on the List you created.Sort List

Info: Internally, this uses similar code to the System.Array.Sort method so performance is similar.

Next: In this program, we sort the room objects (furniture) and then print them out to the screen.

VB.NET program that uses List Sort method Module Module1 Sub Main() ' Create a List of Strings and add 4 Strings to it. Dim list As New List(Of String) list.Add("chair") list.Add("table") list.Add("desk") list.Add("couch") ' Use Sort method. list.Sort() ' Loop through the results and display them. Dim value As String For Each value In list Console.WriteLine(value) Next End Sub End Module Output chair couch desk table

List, sort with lambda. With a List, we can use a lambda expression to define the Comparison Function. This may make the VB.NET code shorter and easier to read.Lambda

Here: We create a List of 3 integers, and then Sort it in descending (high to low) order, using a lambda expression.

VB.NET program that uses lambda, sorts List Module Module1 Sub Main() Dim numbers = New List(Of Integer)({20, 30, 40}) ' Use lambda to sort list in descending order. numbers.Sort(Function(valueA, valueB) valueB.CompareTo(valueA)) For Each number As Integer In numbers Console.WriteLine("LAMBDA SORTED NUMBER: {0}", number) Next End Sub End Module Output LAMBDA SORTED NUMBER: 40 LAMBDA SORTED NUMBER: 30 LAMBDA SORTED NUMBER: 20

Copied array, sort. Array.Sort() operates on the original data. So we must make a copy of the original array if we wish to keep it in that order. We apply the Array.Copy Function.Array.Copy

Note: The changes you make to one copy of the array are not reflected in the other. The 2 arrays are in separate, unconnected memory.

VB.NET program that uses Copy, Sort Module Module1 Sub Main() Dim names() As String = {"Zach", "Andrew", "David"} ' Create a copy of names array and sort it. Dim namesCopy(2) As String Array.Copy(names, namesCopy, 3) Array.Sort(namesCopy) ' Display arrays. Console.WriteLine(String.Join(",", names)) Console.WriteLine(String.Join(",", namesCopy)) End Sub End Module Output Zach,Andrew,David Andrew,David,Zach

Sort on 2 items. Support we have a List of Tuples, and we want to sort based on the first value of each tuple, and then the second value. Here we use an ascending and also descending sort.Tuple

ComparisonTwoTuples: Receives 2 tuples and returns an Integer. We call CompareTo—if the first comparison is 0, we use a second comparison.

Result: The list is sorted ascending on the first Integer in each tuple, and then descending on the second Integer.

VB.NET program that sorts on 2 Tuple values Module Module1 Function GetData() As List(Of Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)) Dim result As New List(Of Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)) result.Add(New Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)(100, 1)) result.Add(New Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)(100, 2)) result.Add(New Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)(10, 2)) result.Add(New Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)(10, 1)) Return result End Function Function ComparisonTwoTuples(ByVal tupleA As Tuple(Of Integer, Integer), ByVal tupleB As Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)) As Integer ' Compare the first Item of each tuple in ascending order. Dim part1 As Integer = tupleA.Item1 Dim part2 As Integer = tupleB.Item1 Dim compareResult As Integer = part1.CompareTo(part2) ' If not equal, return the comparison result. If compareResult <> 0 Then Return compareResult End If ' Compare the second item of each tuple in descending order. Return tupleB.Item2.CompareTo(tupleA.Item2) End Function Sub Main() Dim data As List(Of Tuple(Of Integer, Integer)) = GetData() data.Sort(New Comparison(Of Tuple(Of Integer, Integer))(AddressOf ComparisonTwoTuples)) For Each value In data Console.WriteLine("SORTED ON 2 VALUES: {0}", value) Next End Sub End Module Output SORTED ON 2 VALUES: (10, 2) SORTED ON 2 VALUES: (10, 1) SORTED ON 2 VALUES: (100, 2) SORTED ON 2 VALUES: (100, 1)

Optimization, SortedSet. Sort() is sometimes a slow part of a program. There is a way to avoid calling Sort: we can keep the data sorted as we go along. Consider SortedSet.

Version 1: We create a List, add 3 elements to it, and then call Sort. The List is sorted in-place.

Version 2: This code creates a SortedSet, and when we call Add(), each item is stored in a sorted order—we never need to call Sort.

Result: It is faster to use the SortedSet. Avoiding Sort altogether seems to be a consistent performance boost.

VB.NET program that benchmarks List, SortedSet Module Module1 Sub Main() Dim m As Integer = 100000 Dim s1 As Stopwatch = Stopwatch.StartNew ' Version 1: add 3 strings to List, then Sort it. For i As Integer = 0 To m - 1 Dim list = New List(Of String) list.Add("zebra") list.Add("20") list.Add("bird") list.Sort() If list.Count <> 3 Then Return End If Next s1.Stop() Dim s2 As Stopwatch = Stopwatch.StartNew ' Version 2: add 3 strings to SortedSet. For i As Integer = 0 To m - 1 Dim sorted = New SortedSet(Of String) sorted.Add("zebra") sorted.Add("20") sorted.Add("bird") If sorted.Count <> 3 Then Return End If Next s2.Stop() Dim u As Integer = 1000000 Console.WriteLine(((s1.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds * u) / m).ToString("0.00 ns")) Console.WriteLine(((s2.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds * u) / m).ToString("0.00 ns")) End Sub End Module Output 405.52 ns List, Sort 357.17 ns SortedSet

SortedSet. Instead of sorting a List, we can add the items to a SortedSet—they will stay sorted as we go along. And duplicates will be removed automatically too.SortedSet

SortedList. This collection is similar to the SortedSet, but it stores keys and values (like a Dictionary). It is sorted as items are added—we never call a Sort() method.SortedList

Sort Dictionary. It is also possible to sort collections such as the Dictionary. With this type, we can get the Keys and Values and then sort those collections.Sort Dictionary

Custom. It is possible to define a custom method that determines sort ordering. The default sorting methods work for many cases. But sometimes problems have additional complexity.

Alphanumeric: We sort strings alphanumerically. This treats digits in strings not as characters but part of perhaps larger numbers.

Alphanumeric Sort

Files: We sort files by their lengths, from largest to smallest. This example uses the OrderByDescending method.

Sort Files, Size

Numbers, strings: We can sort strings that have numbers within them by parsing each string into an object. Then we sort the object.

Sort Number Strings

IComparable. We can sort objects based on some part of their internal data. Often we sort objects by a property value. We implement the IComparable generic interface and CompareTo.IComparable

A summary. Sorting strings can be done in many ways. Here we examined ways to sort strings in alphabetical order, and also reverse alphabetical order.

Typically, the sorting methods provided by .NET are sufficient. They are well-tested. They are bug-free for strings and other value types like Integers.
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